Presented on Wednesday, October 9 in the Barn at Quarry Farm as part of the 2019 Fall Trouble Begins Lecture Series.
Before he was a famous novelist, Mark Twain lived and worked in the Nation's Capital, first as an aide to Senator William Stewart of Nevada - he was quickly fired - then as a lobbyist and Washington correspondent. These early experiences gave Twain a unique perspective on American politics, and in later years he became a fierce critic of war and imperialism. Having has his profits as an author reduced by pirated editions of his works, he returned to Washington late in life to testify before Congress for copyright protection for authors. People still read his trenchant writings on politics, with good reason. They still speak to us. "Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can," Twain wrote in What is Man? and Other Essays. In Mark Twain, A Biography, he is quoted as saying "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." What would he say today?
Alan Pell Crawford is the author, most recently, of How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Adventures of Mark Twain, published in 2018. His previous books include Unwise Passions: The True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America and Twilight in Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson. A former Senate and House staffer, Alan has been a residential scholar at the international Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon. He has written for the Wall Street Journal for 25 years and had been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, and Vogue. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.